How to prevent: “The trick is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize," says Dr. Heather Rogers, a dermatologist in Seattle, Washington, "Apply a moisturizer or balm like Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($4, target.com) or RESTORE Healing Balm ($30, dermstore.com) when you get out of the shower to your elbows to hydrate and protect them.
How to treat: Twice a day, slather elbows with a hydrating cream, such as Amlactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion ($16, dermstore.com). To soften extra-rough elbows, apply a layer of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($4, target.com) before bed to seal in moisture, says Lenora Felderman, a New York City dermatologist. Then, if you’re really motivated, cover them with terry-cloth wristbands to keep your sheets clean and let the moisturizer work during the night.
Dr. Rogers also warns against scrubbing. "Instead apply creams with acids to eat away at rough unwanted skin. One of the best over the counter options is Glytone Ultra Softening Heel and Elbow Cream ($54, amazon.com).
When to see a professional: If your elbows are still scaly after a week, you might need a stronger, prescription cream, says Jeanie Leddon, a dermatologist in Lafayette, Colorado. Redness and inflammation could also indicate psoriasis, a genetic disease.